Tag Archives: 21st Amendment

Common Ales: 21st Amendment, Brew Free or Die

While nobody got back to me from 21st Amendment (I’m starting to wonder if I should hassle these breweries on Twitter, instead of polite emails!) the Brew Free or Die IPA is the beer I see most often in the stores. It’s a little bit of a bummer for me to see so little variety, because I generally like 21st’s beers, even if the styles aren’t my thing-see the watermelon ale.

The nose of the Brew Free or Die has some grassy undercurrents. It’s sweet like fruit otherwise: I want so say something mango-oriented present but it’s not overwhelming.

This sweetness isn’t in the finish though; it’s just a strong bite, the kind that would turn a lot of people away from IPAs. The hoppiness vs bitterness debate kicks in here and I can’t say this beer is balanced at all. The nose is a good one but the midrange for malt flavors is practically invisible.

It’s a solid beer but probably for people who are more well versed in the style and interested in IPAs than for newbies to the craft brew scene. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it means that the sharper flavor may be a shock to someone who isn’t ready or interested in it.

7pm Disappointment

After much searching and a little sampling (thank you, Bailey’s staff, for patiently indulging my indecision) I settled on a 21st Amendment Baby Horse. It was a Belgian Quadrupel and this is one of those styles that can be amazing or can really be too sweet and not finish well. However, 21st Amendment has made some excellent beers. I trust them.

This beer had a cinnamon note on the front, which followed through to the beginning flavor, then went overly sweet, finishing like an orange gumdrop.

“So it’s disgusting,” a compatriot said, once I described it to him.

Yes. Yes it is. It’s not Maple Bacon Stout disgusting, it’s not so horrific that I think that there was some kind of huge mistake…except that wow, this feels like a mistake. The flavor notes are supposed to suggest spice and ripe fruit or even have a dry finish similar to white wine but this is just not even close. Spice, OK, orange, OK: that is, I can see the argument for the presence of those flavors but not in this presentation.

I can’t recommend it. Maybe someone else can appreciate it? It is difficult for me to imagine a brewery as solid as 21st Amendment releasing a beer that, to me, is so weird and offputting. Not every beer is for my palate, of course, but still…I usually endorse what they do. So this feels weird.

I wait, writing something completely different, unable to connect my thoughts together. It’s been like that for the past few Mondays. I don’t exactly know why but I don’t question it. I am writing and it’s part of the work. Some days are more challenging than others, which is the nature of the beast. My job is to show up and do the work and sometimes, we’ll all just admit that the beast gets the better of me. In meantime, the beer gets a chance to warm up and perhaps that will help reveal some flavors that weren’t there before.

I have to admit, the ale does smooth out a touch. The transition between cinnamon and gumdrop aren’t as sharp; both ends of the beer have muted themselves into a blend that ‘harmonizes’ them. But I put that word in quotes because it just isn’t a harmony I find appealing.

Better luck next time.

7pm The difference between men and women as I understand it

My lovely gave me a ride home tonight. As we rolled the windows down to let the breeze in she said to me, ‘Today is a good day for a Hell or High Watermelon.’

And that’s it, right there. I do not know a man who would like a Hell or High Watermelon. Even in 90 degree Portland heat.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t one, nor that men shouldn’t like a watermelon beer, or that women have to like watermelon ales. If the Internet has taught the human race anything, it’s that there’s something for everyone, you are never the only one and that people will defy your rules just to be a dick (but also because they can…or just don’t like stuff.)

I just have never met a man who would order a watermelon beer, beyond the first one. Even those men who would be so bold as to try the beer, wouldn’t make a habit of it.

Just like now: I am sipping on Bison‘s honey basil ale. It’s not bad; the basil isn’t overmuch but it is enough to keep the honey malts (and maybe actual honey) from making this beer cloying. It has a touch of that organic beer dirtiness to it though and that is always off putting for me. It has the right feel for the summer, yet I just don’t see myself ordering any beyond this one. That is partly because of the aforementioned dirt flavor and partly because this is a novelty beer. Basil isn’t really drinkable.

But I can see the audience for this beer: it has some very pleasing favors and it’s a very light ale. It’s there for the ladies. Which I think is great, because it means that the audience for craft ales hasn’t closed up yet.

The watermelon beer is for the ladies (sorta.) Some things should be.

Golden Gate Adventures pt 1

I had a very nice time in San Francisco recently, thanks in large part to the many people I was able to visit and hang out with. That said, without the guidance of the New School and It’s Pub Night blogs (and the respective authors pointing things out for me) my trip would have lacked and I thank them for their pointers.

magnolia esbMy adventure started at the Magnolia, where I had their Brant Hill ESB. It was difficult to get nose off the beer because of the malt being boiled somewhere. Doors were opened but the entire pub was steamed windows and a muggy atmosphere as steam billowed from a grate nearby.

I loved it. It was old and new blended in a way that only older cities insist upon and the beer was good enough that the nose didn’t matter. Plus, the food was really good.

Later, we walked to the 21st Amendment where I had the Babyhorse belgian tripel. It was too sweet for the sweetie but I felt there was enough caramel and a touch of dryness makes it work. The Red Dwarf IPA tho was a hit with both of us and
the Amber Waves and Repeal Day IPA were also very good. Why can’t I get THOSE in a can, instead of Hell or High Watermellon?

beach chalet samplerThe next day, I hit the Beach Chalet, trying their sampler of 8 (whoa) beers. I was not expecting that many but no complaints. Of them I dug the brown that looked like a golden but still tasted like a brown, the imperial red, the Presidio IPA and V.F.W. Light. Nothing was bad but the smoky flavor in the stout was a surprise and it wasn’t an entirely pleasant one. I also thought that the California Kind was a solid beer that probably was being overshadowed by all the other choices.

I also overheard a brief conversation at the bar-that I gently wormed into-about Oregon beers and the OBF! It was a pretty light conversation but I always dig on serendipitous moments like that.

Finally, I spent a little time at the Zeitgeist bar, which was near my hotel. While a pretty neat space–one that would fit just fine in Portland, with it’s punk rock attitude and decor–it failed in one critical way: data.

The big board that tells customers what’s on tap told me the style of beer and the name and that is all. To anyone who loves beer, this isn’t nearly enough information and when the board misrepresents things (I ordered an Allies Win The War! which was listed under IPAs) the customer is left at a loss. That’s a design problem and the biggest thing I felt standing in the way of that bar becoming a great one.

Canned Goods

Drinking from a can is different. The metal radiates cold in a way that glass doesn’t; I can feel it in my nose, almost smelling the chill. Other senses are blunted; I can’t see what I’m drinking at all, until I’ve set the can down and seen what collected in the rim and certainly the scents of the beer are not what a sip from a glass would provide me.

The tab touches my nose, gently scraping the middle part between nostrils and for some reason the perspiration of the can stays on my fingers a little longer, as though the beer wants to make any impression it can, knowing it’s being cooped up. The last sip always out of reach because of the barrier between the opening and the edge of the can.

But cans are good. Light. Excellent protection against spoilage. Evoking the nostalgia of the 1970’s, when my Dad would open pull-tabs of Lucky or Rainier or sometimes just ‘beer’ beer.

And you can’t shotgun a bottle.

However, party antics aside I have had the opportunity to try some brews in cans this week and here are my impressions:

cansI got the Oskar Blues Old Chub Scotch Ale because I’ve recently made a Scotch ale and I wanted a basis for comparison. It’s a pretty malty beverage, with a lot of caramel flavors in it. I hesitate to suggest that it would go well as a dessert beer but perhaps as a counterbalance to really spicy meals; with Thai food I can see this as a very nice fit because it’s sweet, but light.

One major strike against it: it comes in those plastic six-pack rings, which are notoriously unfriendly to sea life. That’s just how I roll, baby.

I have to confess that I purchased 21st Amendment‘s Bitter American in part because there was a monkey on the can. All these years of beer experience and I want the one with the monkey.

First, they hopped this pretty well-despite drinking from the can, I can still get a hint of pine. It’s not much but it’s enough that makes me think maybe our senses are a little sharper than we give them credit for. The beer is light enough that I can clearly see to the bottom of the can.

The hops do tend to run away with this beer though. They finish strong in the mouth and there isn’t a lot of midrange there for me to pick up. But if you like a piney finish, then I have to say, this is a solid beer for you. It’s good enough that I’d be interested in trying it on tap, just to see how it changes. They say it’s a session ale and I have to admit that this is the kind of beer I can see drinking a few in a row with the peeps down at the local.

Finally, the Monk’s Blood, also from 21st Amendment. I was actually turned onto this beer by a buddy and I’ve always been pleased by this ale. It’s a belgian dark and while that means that at first blush it’s sweet, the brew quickly descends into a slightly tart ale, with, as promised on the can, hints of fig, vanilla, oak and even a bare touch of cinnamon.

I have to keep in my mouth a bit to pick all this up, which goes against how I’ve seen (and drank) beer drunk from cans for my entire life. Maybe that’s why really complex ales tend to be in bottles; people are inclined to drink those slower due to cultural influences.

But this brew is really good and raises up all the signs to ask you to slow down and taste it; high alcohol, conflicting flavors, a mideval script to read instead of drink. Slow down and see what I’ve got to offer, it says. It’s worth it.